VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- After 7-year-old Rani Hong was
stolen from her mother in a small village in India and sold into slavery, her
captors kept her in a cage to teach her to submit completely to her
"This is what the industry of human trafficking
does," she said; it is an industry of buying and selling human beings for
forced labor, prostitution, exploitation and even harvesting organs. The
International Labor Organization estimates human trafficking grosses $150
billion a year and is rapidly growing, with profits beginning to match those
made in the illegal drug and arms trades.
Human beings are highly lucrative, Hong said, because a drug
sold on the street can only be used once, while a person can be used and sold
over and over again. One human rights group estimates traffickers can make
$100,000 a year for each woman working as a sex slave, representing a return on
investment of up to 1,000 percent.
Hong and others spoke to reporters at the Vatican Nov. 6
during a conference on ways to better assist victims of trafficking in terms of
legal assistance, compensation and resettlement. The Nov. 4-6 gathering was
organized by the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences and Global Alliance for
Legal Aid, a U.S.-based association of jurists providing legal aid to the poor
in developing countries.
Hong eventually found freedom, she said, but it came only
after she became so sick and weak that her owner sold her to an international
adoption agency. She ended up with her adoptive mother in Canada and then the
United States. While her adoptive mother helped her, the trauma of her past
hindered her future -- leading her to not easily trust or communicate with
people, she said.
Today, along with her husband, who, as a child ended up
shipwrecked on a remote island for two years after escaping forced inscription
in Vietnam, she leads the nonprofit Tronie Foundation to serve survivors and
help them join the fight against trafficking.
The success stories and tragedies of victims and survivors
offer the next clue in an effective fight against traffickers and in helping
those who get caught in their snares, said Margaret Archer, president of the
In the process of criminalizing, tracking down and
penalizing traffickers over the years, "victims got almost left out except
as numbers" and their true needs overlooked, Archer said.
The three-day meeting at the Vatican, she said, was meant to
come up with a "victims' charter," that is, very concrete proposals
gleaned from victims and their advocates to act as a sort of framework for
prevention, healing and resettlement.
This is why survivors were part of the conference, Archer
wrote in the conference booklet, to "pinpoint what we did that deterred
their progress toward the life they sought and what we did -– besides providing
bed and board –- that was experienced by them as life-enhancing."
When it comes to rescuing and helping resettle victims of
trafficking, she said, "there's a lot of rhetoric about empowerment,
giving voice ... which don't really get (survivors) very far in paying the
rent, buying the food, finding schools for the children." One idea, she
said, is mobilize the power of Catholic parishes around the world in helping
those who have been trafficked.
Hong said no country is immune to human trafficking and
educating the public is critical for bringing awareness and stemming demand for
never abolished. It's found new forms in new places" and everyone can play
a part in stopping this crime, said John McEldowney, a professor of law at the
University of Warwick, England.